Home  ::  About Us  ::  Movies  ::  Forums  ::  Register  ::  Login27th May 2022
Main Menu

Fluffy The English Vampire Slayer
The Jedi Who Loved Me
Sunday Night Zombies
Undercover 70s Cops
Dr Hall
The Sinister Dr Stone
Big Chimp
Other Movies We've Made
Online since 1995
The 48 Hour Challenge 2003
Saturday 16th August 2003


A few of the Foiled Productions team meet outside the Curzon Mayfair cinema in London, to take part in the National 48 Hour Film Challenge. Apart from myself (Henry Burrows), there are Mark Flitter, Mark R Stalker, and Mike Varty, who are all up for helping out in whatever way they can, from writing, to acting, to post-production (although Mr Stalker is only around for a few hours).


The two Marks and Mike head off to a cafe for some breakfast, while I sit in the cinema to watch the opening trailer and receive our assignment for the next two days. I'm eager to get started, and it's kind of frustrating to wait for everyone else to register, but I find a cool filmmaker to chat with.


I finally get to pick out a title and genre. I get the title "Upon A Time" and the genre "Documentary". This could prove quite a challenge, as I've never made a documentary before, except possibly a school project many many years ago on the subject of speech synthesis and recognition. I phone the information through to the others so they can begin the brainstorming while I register my assignment.


Finally get back to the others and we go through some of the ideas they've had. The team on the table next to us have got a genre of "social commentary" so things could have been worse - I've no idea what we'd have done with that! We spend some time discussing various options that might somehow be connected to the "time" aspect of the title, and eventually decide on the subject of reincarnation and past-life regression.


After a quick phone call to Julien, a friend who is French and might prove useful, we head out of London towards Mike's house in Farnborough. On the way, we pass a building which looks like it could be the office of perhaps someone who is going to be in the documentary, so I grab a quick shot of it just in case. As I film it, a passing pedestrian trips over a loose paving slab right in shot!! It won't make the final cut, but it's highly amusing.


We arrive in Farnborough and begin to gather props and come up with more ideas for how the documentary is going to work. We want to get a twist in there somehow, and come up with the idea of having one of our crew die during a past-life regression!

Then we hit upon another idea, to feature the numbers 4 and 8 throughout, seeing as this is the "48" hour challenge. We'll have our crew member dying at four minutes to eight, and the last thing he'll see is a clock - this also ties in quite nicely with the title "Upon A Time". As another twist on the time theme, we'll try to get clocks into as many scenes as possible, all showing the time as four minutes to eight.

Everyone vanishes, off to find clocks.


Finally we're all back together again, with props, and Julien has turned up too. We haven't exactly figured out how we'll use him, but there's got to be some way we can get some French into our documentary!

As Mark Stalker isn't going to be around for much longer, we decide to shoot a scene with him in first. We set up our two cameras in Mike's office, Mark puts on a shirt, and we interview him for about half an hour on the subject of reincarnation and past-life regression. Of course, we haven't had time to rehearse anything, or to do any research into the subject, so everything is improvised, but we get a few usable shots.


Mark Stalker departs, and we decide to use Mike as a "hippie" type who will be our one believer in reincarnation in case we don't find anyone else. We grab some random shots in the garden, including a great one of him hugging a tree, then return back inside to do another interview. Again, we're very unprepared but still manage to get some shots which we should be able to use in the final cut. We're still not quite sure how we're going to fill five minutes and keep it interesting, but at this stage it's important to get as much on video as we can.


Mike heads off to a party, leaving just myself, Mark Flitter and Julien. We've finally decided how to use our French speaker - we're going to pretend we've regressed him back to a past life where he's Joan of Arc! Julien lies on a couch and we film him as he describes the last few minutes of her life. Once again no time for rehearsals, we just set up and go. Julien then heads off home, leaving just the two of us to figure out what we're going to do next. We've got perhaps two or three minutes worth of usable footage - maybe more? - but still need the crucial final regression and as many other interviews as we can grab. We're just short of people...


We decide to head out to the car park of a local supermarket to grab some random opinions from people. Out of the first few people we ask, two agree to sign our release form and answer a couple of questions, but after that we're unable to find anyone willing. Time is ticking on, so we head off to grab some food. While we eat, we phone around various friends and family to try to find more people willing to answer questions on camera. Mark's parents are in, and not far from our current location, so we decide to make that our next stop.


We record an interview with Mark's father, who has quite a lot to say on the subject, even if he doesn't believe it himself. Once again we manage to get a clock into the scene, despite the fact that we're in the back garden. Later we discover the sound of a bird squawking all over the audio, but by then it's too late!


We head back to Farnborough, this time to Mark's house. He's managed to get through to one of his neighbours who is in tonight and willing to take part. We decide that he'll play the part of the regression therapist who worked on Julien earlier, and who will send Mark back into his past life.

Before we shoot any of that, we hit the internet and track down some web sites about reincarnation and past-life regression. Fortunately what we've already filmed isn't too far from what some people think, which is a relief as we have basically been making it all up as we go.


Mark's neighbour Ash Buttle turns up, and we immediately grab a shot of him asking a few questions - we can probably edit these into Julien's scene we shot earlier today. Then we shoot a scene where "Dr Buttle" turns up at Mark's house and Mark interviews him. This all goes very smoothly, so we go straight on to the past-life regression which will end the documentary. No rehearsals or anything, we just go straight in and film a few takes. The first take is just over two and a half minutes, which would be half the length of the entire thing, so we try to shorten it down as much as possible. We decide that the year Mark is regressed to is 1948, to once again fit in with the "48" theme.


Having got enough shots of "Dr Buttle", I head off home with nearly two hours worth of footage in total from today. It sounds a lot, but we had two cameras running on all scenes so it's not that bad. Anyway, there's a whole day to edit it - surely it won't take that long...?

Before getting some sleep, I do the opening titles, keeping it simple with a plain screen of text. If I get time at the end, I can always make it look a bit more flashy then.

Sunday 17th August 2003


I start work on transferring the footage from video tape onto my PC - it's very slow work, as I'm also picking out pieces which could be used in the final cut and transcribing the dialogue. It might take hours to do, but at the end of it I'll have a detailed list of all the shots and editing will be a simple case of picking the right order for them.


Mark Flitter reunites with Ash to get a shot of him that we can use as his introduction, as it's something we forgot to get yesterday.


Mark meets up with his friend Shaun, who knows nothing about what we're doing, and films an interview. Amazingly, Shaun is a total believer in reincarnation, and relates some stories about his previous lives. At last we have part of the documentary which isn't fake!

Mike, suffering a hangover from the party he was at last night, and some serious writer's block, starts work on ideas for the music. He soon realises that he's left one of his main keyboards at the party, which makes things a little more challenging. He spends the rest of the morning downloading information on sitars from the internet, for the "hippie" scenes.


Mark arrives at my house, to deliver the scenes he shot earlier this morning. I'm still working my way through the tapes, not even halfway through the first yet! The quality of the picture on my Canon camcorder is vastly superior to the Panasonic, which isn't really surprising as it cost about three times as much. However, the sound is better on the Panasonic - definitely less noise overall. This means I'll probably end up using most of the video from the Canon and most of the audio from the Panasonic.


Mark leaves again, and I head out briefly to grab some lunch. I then continue logging shots.


I begin to put together a rough edit, picking out shots so that there is some kind of order to them and each is somehow connected to the one before, in terms of what people are saying. As I suspected, this part is made very easy by the fact that I have all the dialogue written out and I can see at a glance which shots I need.


Mark Flitter reappears, to help out with the last part of the first rough cut. We manage to get the final regression scene down to a more manageable length by some careful editing and cutting to shots of Dr Buttle.


Everyone else turns up at my house - Mark Stalker to sort out props and to see how things are going, Mike to get a copy of the rough cut for soundtrack inspiration, and Julien to tell me what he was saying yesterday so I can subtitle it.


Everyone leaves again and I start tidying up the edits to make things neater, and copying the audio from the second camera. I also make the decision to convert everything into a letterbox format, which enables me to correct some slightly dodgy framing and to make the whole thing look better.


Mark Flitter records an interview with Sue Element, who has some genuine past-life stories to tell.


Mike - finally starting to recover from his hangover - begins to write some music using CubaseSX against the rough cut.


I'm still converting the edits into letterbox format and rendering them out to new files - once I'm happy, I can delete all the old files and clear up some much needed disk space.


Mark Flitter turns up with loads of food from his local Chinese and we just eat for a while. I grab a copy of his latest interview, and we move some of the edits around until we feel we've improved things enough.


Mike eats his dinner while watching an aircraft crash documentary on TV which gives him loads of ideas for what to do with the music.


Mark heads home. I continue updating all the audio so it comes from the second camera.


Mike records Mark Stalker's ticking clock for the main 'time' theme. It has a nice mechanical clock sound, and coupled with an artificial tick noise (for some bite) it does the trick.

Monday 18th August 2003


I start working on putting the names of our characters up on the screen the first time we see them - I decide to do it only for the so-called "experts" otherwise things could get very confusing. I also get the closing credits finalised and start gathering famous quotes and statistics about reincarnation to put up on the screen throughout the documentary.

Mike's now about halfway through the music, and has a nice sitar section in place with some Indian drum beats.


Mike turns up at my house with his PC so we can work on getting the music matched to the final cut. I kick off a render of the whole thing, which takes some time to complete, while Mike tries to get his PC running as it should. All kinds of weird problems start arising, like his PC crashing, refusing to recognise the sound card, locking up...


Mike finally gets the latest cut imported into Cubase and starts working on refitting the music. I experiment with various options for our on-screen quotes, including scrolling text, big text and the final decision - yellow text on a golden bar. It's easy to read and doesn't obscure too much of the picture.


Mike cleans up the dialogue sections, doing noise reduction, EQ and levelling. It's starting to sound much nicer. Outside, the sky is getting light...


I figure it's probably a good idea if I test that I can output the video to my camcorder, as the films have to be submitted on MiniDV and that's the only way I can record it in that format. I connect up all the leads, change the settings in Premiere to output to DV, and... nothing happens. Not a sausage.

I check all the connections, start and stop all the applications, and still I can't get the camera to recognise that there is some video coming out from my PC. Something very strange is going on - the PC also doesn't want to play the video now, just displaying a black screen whenever I try to watch it. It starts to get a bit worrying, as I don't know anyone else who might be able to write the film out to tape... I start hunting the internet for possible solutions.

Mike's PC starts crashing again.


After a total shutdown and restart, I'm very relieved to find that output to the camera is working once again. I should have thought of trying it earlier, but by now I'm quite tired and not thinking straight.


Mike performs the final mixdown of the music track and cleaned dialogue tracks, and passes it back to me for the final rendering. We spend some time adjusting audio levels in Premiere, to ensure that what people are saying isn't drowned out by the music. It takes several passes to get it good enough, especially as we're both half asleep!


We finally manage to get the finished film out onto a MiniDV tape. It's such a relief to know that it doesn't matter how many times the PCs crash now, we have a tape with it on. I play it back, just to be sure it's recorded successfully!


Mike leaves, and heads home to get some much-needed sleep. I'm not so lucky - the tape has to be delivered back to the cinema in London. I check up on train times, and find one in less than an hour.


I get on the train to London, tape securely wrapped inside a padded envelope. Lack of sleep is making me paranoid - have I accidentally sealed up a copy of my holiday video by mistake? Does any of the film actually make any sense at all?! Oh well, it's too late now...


I post the tape through the letterbox at the cinema, onto a huge pile of other entries. There's not much room for more tapes, so hopefully someone will be along soon to empty it out. As I head off to do some shopping, paranoia once again makes me think - what if someone reaches through the letterbox and removes my tape from the top of the pile?! Why is that dog staring at me? Where am I? What day is it???

...beyond the infinite

Overall it was a great fun 48 hours, and the word "challenge" is very apt. Considering we made an entertaining documentary on a subject we knew next to nothing about, we didn't do too badly.

Next year we'll probably turn up well prepared with hundreds of cool locations, dozens of willing volunteers, the most amazing props ever seen - and get the genre "monologue".

Copyright © 2022 Foiled Productions
Website design by Henry Burrows